The recent college admissions scandal has all the elements of a sensational, headline-grabbing story: Rich and famous parents paying bribes. Coaches encouraging fabricated athletic success. Prestigious colleges caught in the crosshairs. And now the potential of class action lawsuits brought against some of our nation’s most elite universities.

While it’s easy to criticize the parents implicated in the scandal, my hunch is that most of us with kids under 30 have taken at least a few steps down the trail of overparenting. Our excessive parenting may not be as obvious and hopefully isn’t illegal. But a recent national study of over 1,100 parents of 18–28 year-olds showcases the common parental tendency to step in to improve our kids’ options.

According to the study, over three-fourths (76%) of parents remind their adult children of upcoming deadlines. Almost that many (74%) are scheduling doctor’s appointments for their 20-somethings, 15% have called or texted their child to make sure they don’t sleep through a class or test, and 8% have contacted a professor or administrator to discuss their child’s college performance or grades. No wonder colleges today are allocating personnel and developing policies to help extricate parents from their students’ daily rhythms and routines.

Over-involved parents of every stripe tend to focus on two outcomes—academic success and economic success, presuming the former leads to the latter. “Getting ahead” easily becomes an idol. For Christian parents, however, success is not the end goal (even if it is the outcome). Instead, we’re called to a simple-but-challenging counter-narrative: to help our kids grow in Christ, ...

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